A hop, skip and a jump. Camaguey, Bayamo & Santiago de Cuba, Cuba.

28 May

Our Cuban travels continue to migrate east…

THE HOP

We arrive in Camaguey much, much later than we had expected. The rain in Trinidad caused rivers to flood, leaving buses to take a longer route around it. About 4 hours longer, to be exact. This gave us much less time to experience the town, leaving us to taking a stroll through the tiny laneways before finally finding ourselves in our first government-run restaurant for dinner. Not quite understanding how the portions and the menu worked, we haphazardly ordered as best we could. While the food was fairly average, there is very little to complain about a meal for two, consisting of meat, veg, rice, beer, water, and a tip, totaling a mere AUD$7. How is this possible? Cuba has two currencies – one for Cuban nationals and one for tourists. $1CUC (tourist currency) = 25Pesos (national currency) = $1AUD. The intricacies of the system can take some time to get your head around, but the bottom line is services aimed at tourists are charged at a much higher rate because, well, with our stronger economies, we can afford to pay more. Cuba being a socialist country means all Cubans have their basic necessities free – housing, schooling, health-care – and other basic necessities such as fruit, veg and elementary cooking ingredients, are charged in the currency for Cuban nationals – Cuban pesos (for example, one banana costs 1 Peso, therefore for $1 Aussie dollar, you could buy 25 bananas. There is, however, no rule disallowing a tourist nor a Cuban national from exchanging money into the other’s currency and purchasing items with it. And so, this is how we find ourselves forking out so little for a night’s meal.

Camaguey was only intended as a pit-stop to break up a long journey, so the next day we were on the move for Bayamo. Arriving at the bus station, we weren’t surprised to be faced with a 4 hour delay. Our bus to Bayamo was commencing at Trinidad, and of course the river was still flooded. However, Cuban resourcefulness must eventually rub off on tourists as we were approached by 3 persons in the same position who had the idea we could share a taxi for not much more than the cost of the bus. So very soon we find ourselves, watching eight Cubans fight over the best way to fit the luggage of five passengers in the back of just one almighty Chevvy. Getting nowhere MC, unable to bite is tongue for any longer, finally steps in heaving everything into position and slamming down the lid. We’re off.

THE SKIP

Bayamo is a very quiet city, and its refreshing to note that almost every home seems to have a large front porch, complete with rocking chairs. Our casa indeed does and here we meet the two other guests staying here, a Welsh father with his 14 year old son, Jeremy and Jantob.

We quickly learn Bayamoans are proud of two things – their chess playing prowess and their regional specialty, spit-roasted pork. As luck would have it, our final night in town is a Saturday night, the night most of the town heads to their big fair and they sample the delights of the above-mentioned regional speciality. MC could barely contain his excitement.

And what an amazing thing we found. In the true style of a fair, there were bouncy castles, merry-go rounds, fairy floss machines and lots of sticky, excited children. But it also had a dash  Cuban flair…  Beer pumps, Bloody Mary oyster shots, and numerous stands with barbequing meats. We eat and drink our fill (big tick for the spit-roasted pork!), again at ridiculous rock-bottom Cuban national prices.

The next morning we take our bici-taxi to the bus station. Cycling along in the 35C Cuban heat with us and our 2 hefty backpacks? Tough gig!

THE JUMP

Our next stop is just 2 hours away, Santiago de Cuba. It’s Cuba’s second largest city after Havana, and although we did read that it was famous for its jineteros (locals touting tourists for everything), it was a real shock when we arrived. The touting was aggressively persistent, and there seemed to be some underlying animosity towards tourists. It was unsettling. By the time we’d finished a short stroll through town, not even an ice-cream could placate me. So we decided all we decide we would hire a Coco taxi and ride out to San Pedro de la Roca castle. There is much amusement to be had when you travel around in a coco-pop!

San Pedro castle is an interesting way to pass the time. Even better is that it’s quiet and the views are glorious…

The wander back to the casa is quiet, and we finally feel like we can appreciate Santiago a little better…

After a quiet dinner in the casa, we head to bed early. Tomorrow we’re headed to Baracoa. It’s said to be a small, quiet, beautiful, untouched part of Cuba and even more off the tourist trail, so we’re hoping to spend 4 or 5 days there. Fingers crossed the jineteros from Santiago haven’t headed there too…

x kel

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One Response to “A hop, skip and a jump. Camaguey, Bayamo & Santiago de Cuba, Cuba.”

  1. Chestionare Auto November 1, 2014 at 9:57 am #

    Hi. Can i Share A hop, skip and a jump. Camaguey, Bayamo & Santiago de Cuba, Cuba.
    to my Facebook page?

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